In an entertainment era where television shows broadcast extreme unethical conduct as prevalent in the lives and dealings of the nation's policymakers, these fictional scandals are often the norm in many other nations, according to Ernie Walton '11 (School of Law), director of Regent University's Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law. And, where the rule of law is absent, chaos takes its place.
On Feb. 21-22, the Center for Global Justice hosted its third annual Global Justice Symposium, exploring the rule of law in East Africa. Students, faculty and staff participated in legal discussion about how to advocate for justice in an area where the law isn't respected or followed well.
"When people travel to these countries, they realize that the laws don't function like they do in the United States," said Walton. "Sure, laws are broken all of the time here, but when a law is broken, it's generally carried out to its consequences."
If no one is following the law, this can leave criminals of serious crimes out on the street to perform them once again. Guest panelist Brian Dennison, a missionary and lecturer at Uganda Christian University, explained that the absence of the rule of law in East African nations is a problem of a faulty, survivor-mode mentality.
"What's in our DNA as Americans is the desire to cooperate and work together," said Dennison. "But in Uganda, the thought process is, 'I've got to take care of myself, and I've got to navigate this place as best as I can.'"
Dennison explained that barriers in East Africa such as language, limited resources, a fear of altering law that is already in place, an immature common law, corruption and a fallen culture contribute to the absence of the rule of law.
Edward Sekabanja (pictured), managing partner of Sekabanja & Co. Advocates and president of Uganda Christian Lawyers Fraternity, explained that many of the challenges in the East African region arise from a mix of weak opposition to the way the laws have been governed in the past and apathy. He explained that the majority of people in Uganda don't vote or even register because they don't believe anything is going to change.
"Educated Christians must take the lead, because it is their role to fight for those who are poor and those who have been marginalized," said Sekabanja. "The Church needs to start making that move."
Walton agreed, explaining that while it is good for individuals to advocate for the larger, trendier human rights issues, such as trafficking and child sacrifice, the best way to combat these unfortunate realities is to attack the bigger problem beneath the surface—a task he hopes the Center for Global Justice will continue to take on.
"Regent is taking a serious look at how we can actually make effective changes on these issues and get to the root of the problem," said Walton. "We believe in long-term systematic change, and having this perspective is going to give us a real opportunity for influence, both with the people on the ground as well as with lawyers and with government officials."